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November 5, 2009

Q&A: On the sidelines with Kelly Cagle

By: Matt Kovatch

Kelly Cagle

Although Tech’s football team has been highly ranked all season long, the women’s soccer team across the street has been making big headlines of its own, recording three wins over top-20 teams on its way to the highest win total in program history. The Hokies’ postseason fate was not yet known at press time, but here’s what head coach Kelly Cagle had to say before Tech took part in the ACC tournament:

Q: You said the team’s goal at the beginning of the year was to make it to the postseason for the second time in a row, which had never been done before at Tech. Once it became apparent that would happen, did the team set any additional goals?

A: After our 4-0 start in conference play, we said that we needed to continue to strive for higher goals. One goal that we added to the list was to try to secure a home-field bid in the NCAA Tournament. Had we won a couple more league games since then, we would have a great case for it, but that is lofty at this point. Whether it happens or not, it was a very appropriate goal that we added at a very appropriate time.

The Hokies celebrated after defeating #1 UNC during the best season in program history.

Q: Your team doesn’t particularly dominate in any one statistical category, so what’s been the key to so many wins this year?

A: I think the key to our positive results has been playing as a team, sticking to the game plan and playing hard, effort-based soccer. We are so much better when we want to win more than the other team, but it’s a fine line in a tough conference like this. We went to Duke when their backs were against the wall, and they simply wanted to win more than we did that day. The will to win has been a huge thing for us, and you don’t see that in the stats because it’s not something you can calculate.

Q: How did the team react to being nationally ranked so suddenly after that 4-0 start in the ACC?

A: We’ve actually stopped talking about it [being ranked] a little bit. One of our goals was to be in the top 25 and to be recognized as one of the better teams in the country. But when we got there and started talking about it, we realized that we were putting too much energy and communication into stuff that was either in the past or that wasn’t going to be helpful. We tried to get back to the basics. Our biggest challenge at that point was to not think we were any better than we were, because we’re not. We’re as good as this program’s ever been, but we want to go so much farther. We had to fight the urge of resting on any single win, and instead, we’ve tried to focus on how we are going to finish.

Q: When you upset No. 1 and undefeated North Carolina on Oct. 4, it was only the Tar Heels’ eighth ACC loss in their 31-year history. How big of an accomplishment was that for your team?

A: For one, I’m not sure any program garners as much respect as UNC does. The tradition they’ve built there is pretty phenomenal. But also, that win was in the midst of a lot of other good performances for us. It wasn’t just an isolated win. It proved to me that we could compete with anybody. I think we have our team very organized before games, and if they believe in the plan and stick to it, I truly think that we can beat anybody. But if we don’t, I think anybody can beat us. We’ve got to move forward with the confidence that we are one of the best up-and-coming programs in the country. We have to stick to what has been working for us.

Q: What do you think a win like that, in addition to wins over No. 18 Virginia and No. 5 Wake Forest, has done for the program?

A: It’s been a great confidence booster, but you can’t just throw on your uniform after a win like that and expect it to happen again. We’ve always had a target on our back being a part of the ACC, especially when we play out of conference, but this is really the first time that we’ve had a target on our back when we play against some of the best teams in the country. It’s a different target and it’s a different hunter coming after you. Because of the wins that we’ve had, there are now some of the best teams in the country who really want to beat us. It’s a whole different can of worms. We’ve got to be able to deal with that, acknowledge it, accept it and appreciate it. We are now a quality win for other teams because of the season that we’ve had, so that’s harder to protect.